Grasshoppers are a part of almost everyone's childhood, but people don't know much about these fascinating creatures. This article will cover our little green friend's characteristics, types, and interesting facts.
Thinking about grasshoppers, we can't help but remember our childhood, running around outside and catching these little green insects. We may not think much about grasshoppers other than the occasional backyard cricket. But there's a lot more to these creatures than meets the eye.
Come, we'll unfold the nostalgia while answering your curiosity. This article will introduce you to the 11 most common types of grasshoppers found worldwide. But before we jump on to the types, let's learn a little more about their fundamentals.
Characteristics of Grasshoppers
Hailing from the Orthoptera order and suborder Caelifera, grasshoppers are considered the oldest group of insects to exist. Evidence supports that their existence can be dated back about 250 million years. There are approximately 11,000 species of grasshoppers worldwide, most of them found in warm regions.
They can't tolerate cold weather, so you'll find them in plenty near the equator. These creatures are primarily herbivorous, feeding on plants, leaves, and grass. Some species are crop pests, while others have been used as food for humans and animals.
The following are some of the most notable characteristics of grasshoppers:
- They have chewing mouthparts.
- Two pairs of wings - the hindwings are larger than the forewings and enable grasshoppers to leap long distances.
- Most species are drab in coloration, but some tropical species can be brightly colored.
- Their size ranges from about 1.2 to 10 cm (1/2" to 4") long.
- Grasshoppers have a pair of antennae on their head for sensing touch and smell.
- Female grasshoppers are typically larger than their male counterparts.
While most grasshoppers have these common characteristics, certain variations set them apart. You'll learn more about these differences as we go through the various types.
Types of Grasshoppers
Now that you know a little more about grasshoppers let's look at the different types. Well, they can be broadly classified into two main groups based on the length of their antennae:
- Short-horned grasshoppers
- Long-horned grasshoppers
Let's explore these types in detail and learn about the different grasshoppers in each group.
As the name suggests, short-horned grasshoppers have shorter antennae than their long-horned cousins. They belong to the insect order Orthoptera and hail from the family Acrididae. Their antennas are short but heavy, and the size of these grasshoppers can range between 5 mm to 11 cm (0.2" to 4.3"). With their green color and tone, it's easy for them to blend into their surroundings.
Short-horned females have a four-valved ovipositor which helps lay eggs, and they also have three-segmented tarsi. Moreover, they can lay up to 100 eggs in soil. They have long femurs and hind legs to jump decent distances. The winged males can rub their front wings and create noises; however, not all of them have wings, and some are even flightless.
Some of the most common types of short-horned grasshoppers include:
Spur-throated grasshoppers are one of the most widespread and commonly found types of short-horned grasshoppers. They have a distinctive spur on their throat, and they get their name from this feature. Spur-throated grasshoppers are usually green or brown, and they have a mottled appearance. However, you can also find them in various colors, such as red, yellow, or orange. You can commonly find them in open fields and meadows.
It's the most popular species in North America, and they can cross borders and fly into Canada. These grasshoppers are also known to be crop pests, and they can damage various crops such as corn, soybeans, cotton, and alfalfa. They are voracious eaters and can quickly destroy a crop within days.
Locusts are another type of short-horned grasshopper, and they get their name from the fact that they travel in large swarms. They are known to be crop pests and can quickly destroy crops, leaving behind a trail of devastation. Locusts are usually black-brown or yellowish-brown in color, and they have a mottled appearance.
Hailing from the family Acrididae, locusts can be found all across the globe. Locusts are solitary; however, they can form swarms and breed heavily to grow dramatically. They can cover long distances and love to feed on green vegetation. These are among the fastest flying grasshoppers, and In a single day, a locust swarm can travel up to 150 km (93 miles).
Lubber grasshoppers are one of the largest types of short-horned grasshoppers. They are usually green or black and have a stocky build with unique body hues. Unlike the other grasshoppers in this category, Lubber grasshoppers are slow and clumsy. They are named aptly because "Lubber" means lazy. These grasshoppers are a notable species in the southeastern United States and are found in abundance in Florida.
They have earned a reputation for destroying crops and are considered pests. Lubber grasshoppers love to feed on crops and vegetables such as corn, tomatoes, okra, and beans. Eastern lubber grasshoppers can grow around 5 to 7 cm (2" to 3"). They can have red wings featuring black borders. In contrast, the Western lubber varieties are smaller and have pink wings. They are commonly known as buffalo grasshoppers.
Band-winged grasshoppers are one of the most colorful types of short-horned grasshoppers. They get their name from the fact that they have brightly colored wings with dark bands. This is the only type that can create sound among the short-horned grasshoppers. They are known to produce a crackling sound when they fly. However, they use their forewings to cover their colorful hind wings when not flying. By doing this, they also blend in with their surroundings.
Having beautiful, colorful wings, these are often mistaken for butterflies. They jump out and spread their bold wings to fend off the predators. The Carolina grasshopper with black hind wings is the most common type of this species. Another popular type is the clear-winged grasshopper which is most commonly found in North America.
The name gives away migratory grasshoppers' basic characteristic: dispersing and migrating to the different parts of the country. They are known to travel in large swarms and can cover long distances. Migratory grasshoppers can be a real menace as they love to feed on crops and can quickly destroy them. They are widely distributed in North America, and you can find them in different habitats such as meadows and grasslands.
Also known as red-legged grasshoppers, they can either be herbivorous or forbivorous, depending on their type. Several studies have shown that migratory grasshoppers have an inherent behavior to migrate.
Slant-faced grasshoppers are one of the most easily recognizable short-horned grasshoppers because of their unique shape. Coming from the Acridinae subfamily, they have hind wings and a slanted face. Slant-faced grasshoppers can commonly be found around marshes and wet meadows.
Most of these species feed on grasses and plants; however, the food preferences may vary with the species. On the bright side, they always move around in small numbers, meaning they won't do much harm to vegetation.
Long-horned grasshoppers belong to the Tettigoniidae family and the Orthoptera order. This grasshopper type constitutes nearly 6,000 species that can be found worldwide. One striking feature of this family is that almost all the members are green in color and have long wings. And as the name implies, they have long antennae, slender and hairy. Moreover, they can be as long as the body or even longer in some cases. They become active at night and tend to produce noise.
As far as their habitat is concerned, long-horned grasshoppers prefer trees, bushes, and shrubs. Owing to this attribute, they are also known as bush crickets or tree crickets. The factor that separates this type is having a hearing organ called the tympanum, situated on their front legs. Females have a pointed ovipositor and differently shaped long wings. On the other hand, male species create a sound by rubbing their wings to attract females. The long-horned grasshoppers remain in their egg stage during the winters and come out in the open during warm seasons.
Now let's explore the different types of long-horned grasshoppers:
Commonly known as bush cricket or long-horned grasshopper, katydid is the most prominent member of the Tettigoniidae family. It is a nocturnal insect and can be found in different parts of the world. They feature a thick, curvy ovipositor, categorized by their long antenna and huge hind legs. Katydids are known for their song that sound like Katy-did, Katy-didn't. While this is the most common song, it is believed that each of these species has a unique song.
As far as their size is concerned, they have a body length of about 1 to 6 cm (0.4" to 2.3"). However, one species known as the matriarchal katydid is an exception as it reaches up to 12 cm (4.71") in length. They are poor flyers, and some of them are flightless. Also, typically katydids are bright green, but you can also find some species in yellow or pink.
Meadow grasshoppers come from the Tettigoniidae family, and they are small to medium size. As the name implies, they are usually found near meadows, pastures, and grasslands. They are smaller in size and have a lean body, making them very light. This provides them with excellent jumping ability.
In terms of diet, meadow grasshoppers are herbivorous, and they feed on leaves, grasses, and especially underwater plants. They enjoy being underwater and can remain there for several minutes. Also, they have a pair of long antennae, and their body is mostly green in color. However, some species may also have brown or purplish hues.
Categorized by their pointy head, cone-headed grasshoppers are one of the most dangerous long-horned grasshoppers. They are light green or brown colored and have strong jaws. However, their bodies are slender and light that grows up to 4 cm (1.5") in length.
Cone-headed grasshoppers prefer warmer regions and are found in southern and central Europe. Like the other species in the long-horned grasshoppers, they are also believed to have their specific song. However, their song consists of only one note that repeats, resulting in a constant buzzing sound.
The Shield-back katydid is a nocturnal creature known for its large eyes and long antennae. It is categorized by its large hind legs and the armor-like plate on its back. However, they do share some resemblance with crickets. The length of the body of a shield-back katydid ranges from 1.8 to 5 cm (0.7" to 1.9"). They are found in western North America, and their diet consists of leaves, flowers, and fruits.
As for their color, shield-back katydid are mostly green or brown, with some species having a reddish hue. Also, they have short or no wings and are unable to fly. You will find them in several habitats like forests and farmlands. They are out and around in summers and early fall but go into hiding as soon as winter comes.
Now, apart from the above two classifications, there's another type that differentiates itself from the other grasshoppers. Which is:
Pygmy grasshoppers are relatively an unknown type in the family of grasshoppers. The fact that separates pygmy grasshoppers from the rest is that they don't have hearing or sound-producing organs. They are one of the smallest types of insects in the world.
Most species reach a body length of about 1 cm (.3"), and they have small or no forewings at all. Their color can be brown, green, or gray, plus they are commonly known as grouse locusts. You can find them around muddy shores and grasslands.
Interesting Facts About Grasshoppers
Now that you know the different types of grasshoppers, let's explore some interesting facts about them:
- Grasshoppers have a very efficient digestive system and can consume about 16 times their weight in a day.
- They have ears on their bellies and can hear the predator coming from underground.
- Males sing to attract females and warn off other males. They are believed to have unique songs which they produce by rubbing their wings.
- Grasshoppers can jump about 20 times their own body length. This is possible by virtue of their powerful hind legs.
- Apart from jumping, they can reach an impressive flying speed of 8 miles per hour.
- Grasshoppers are found on every continent except Antarctica.
- They are believed to have been around for more than 250 million years. This suggests that grasshoppers existed even before dinosaurs.
- Grasshoppers can bite or spit brown liquid on you to defend themselves. This liquid is made up of toxins that can cause irritation and swelling.
- Grasshoppers are considered a delicacy in some cultures. In fact, they are a good source of protein and are rich in vitamins and minerals.